The economy could shrink by 35pc in the short term, unemployment could surge by two million and the UK is facing its deepest recession since the Twenties, according to forecasts in the last week.
The spread of coronavirus is a health issue first and foremost – but for the Treasury committee, it is our role to consider its economic impact.
While Parliament has been in recess, we have used virtual evidence sessions and correspondence with the Treasury, HMRC, financial services and others to ensure that the critical concerns raised by businesses, families and individuals are being addressed by government. The Government has taken bold action at considerable pace. Measures such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) will help millions of individuals and businesses get through the lockdown.
Ministers have had to carefully weigh up the desire for approaches that are comprehensive with the need for the simplicity that drives the pace at which help can be delivered. With this pursuit of speed, schemes that might otherwise take many months to develop, often come with hard edges and real challenges around delivery.
It is these hard edges and delivery issues that we have been examining. A record response to the committee’s initial call for evidence focused on the lack of support for self-employed people. We urged the Chancellor to take action, so when he announced a new raft of measures, this was welcome. Numerous submissions involved CBILS, which provides access for SMEs to soft loans, with the Government providing 80pc guarantees.